Problem

Uninvolved working parents

Other Names:
Latchkey children
Neglect of children by working parents
Increased preference to work rather than raise children
Nature:
The need for working parents to leave children alone is a consequence of the development of a highly mobile and fragmented society in which the family structure and its traditional supports are degraded by the demands of a competing and materialistic society. Although extended families traditionally care for children in such situations, in industrialized countries where both parents tend to work, such support is no longer readily available.

Increasingly, it is seen that both parents choose to work full-time even when it is not necessary for the financial stability of the family. Affluent couples are as likely as poor couples to say that they work for "the bare necessities". These parents argue that their children are well cared for in day-care centres; surveys show, however, that few parents take the time to examine the day-care they choose. Others say they would prefer to work less and spend more time with their children, but companies which offer shorter working hours or unpaid holidays find only 4% of employees take it up. The truth is that many parents prefer the pressures of work to the pressures of raising a family.

Incidence:
In the USA it has been estimated that there are between 9 and 12 million latchkey children. In the UK in 1993 it was estimated that up to 800,000 children between 5 and 10 could be left at home alone after school or during their holidays because their parents were working.
Claim:
A major greeting card company has a line of cards aimed at parents who worry they do not spend enough time with their children. The cards contain messages such as "Sorry I can't be there to tuck you in bed".
Counter Claim:
It may seem remarkable that anyone could allow a child as young as five to go home to an empty house. But people who leave their children's safety to chance do so because they cannot afford certainties. These parents are caught in the poverty trap, unable to afford child-minders, unable to stay at home. They give their children latch-keys, even though the dangers are clear. They are not happy about it but it would be unrealistic to expect them not to work. They have to pay their bills. They must be helped, not blamed.
Values:
Uninvolved
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
30.05.1998 – 00:00 CEST